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Consider gifts that teach your kids about money

By STEVE ROSEN
The Kansas City Star

If your children already have a shelf full of dolls, a bin brimming with Legos and a large electronic library of video games, then it’s time to park the shopping cart and consider an alternative — gifts that will teach your kids about money.

In the eyes of a 12-year-old, that sounds about as exciting as getting new pajamas or a sweater. But a four-slotted Money Savvy Pig bank, a Monopoly board game, Zoo Tycoon for the computer or a share of stock in something your youngster likes may have a longer-term payoff than a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle action figure.

The best money-oriented gifts are both educational and fun. With that in mind, before you surf the Internet or head to the mall, here are a few money-themed gift ideas to consider:

• Books. The Berenstain Bears children’s book series for grade-schoolers includes many mini-lessons on money. And isn’t it amazing, those clever bears seem to solve every money problem they encounter. Another author, Sheila Bair, a former head of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., has written “Rock, Brock and the Savings Shock” and a series of other children’s books.

For tweens and teens interested in investing and the stock market, there are plenty of good reads, including “The Richest Man in Babylon” and “The Warren Buffett Way.” And if there’s a college student in the house, consider a subscription to Kiplinger’s personal finance magazine or The Economist.

• Coin collecting. You can stuff a stocking with chocolate gold coins — and add a gift ordered straight from the U.S. Mint at usmint.gov. The mint’s online catalog includes the latest in the president coin set series, U.S. Army commemorative coins, books and collecting kits.

• Games. Monopoly, Payday and the Game of Life are classics. But software such as Ka-Ching, Sim City and Zoo Tycoon are also popular for the mouse pad generation. Put your tween in the CEO hot seat and teach him or her about opening a business, finding capital, marketing products, and buying and selling stock.

• Investments. Another Barbie or a share of stock in Mattel — or both. Introduce your kids to investing through sites such as ShareBuilder and OneShare. You can buy shares at both sites, and educational startup kits geared to young investors are there too.

• Charities. This holiday, give your children something extra that may give them perspective on their good fortune of having a roof over their head and a refrigerator full of food. Turn to Feeding America, a nonprofit organization that fills and finances food banks and soup kitchens nationwide. According to the organization, a $1donation in your child’s name will provide eight meals to the hungry. To donate, go to feedingamerica.org.

Two other websites that help promote charitable giving are kiva.org, where donors can contribute as little as $25 to fight poverty; and charitygiftcertificates.org, where you decide on the amount of a donation, then send a gift card to the recipient, who then chooses the charity from among 250 organizations. You can also select one charity to be suggested to your young philanthropist.

To reach Steve Rosen, call 816-234-4879 or send email to srosen@kcstar.com.

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